Danny; Grodno, Belarus
Louis Armstrong and his band were one of the first cultural ambassadors to bring American music abroad. This March marked the 50th anniversary of Satchmo’s historic tour that took him and the band behind the Iron Curtain. It’s no surprise that we saw this book featured at the Grodno library when we were invited to play and tour the former home of a famous Belarusian writer Eliza Orzeszkowa. She wrot a series of 30 novels and was nominated for the Nobel Prize along with Tolstoy in 1905.
We played an unplugged set in the backyard of the library and spoke to local patrons about Jazz and American music. I played on a chair and table, Brian sang his bass lines, Joe rigged a makeshift amp for his guitar and Johnny sang sans mic to the crowd.
Grodno has more preserved historical architecture than Minsk because it was a further north and out of the direct line of fire form the war fallout.
That clock is from the 15th century and is still working, while the church itself is Baroque;)
Above is one of the main walking streets in Grodno and it like many places in town look very European. Behind the old castle and estate that serves as the site for the Grodno a Jazz festival is the lovers stairway. It leads down to the Neman river where we had a traditional Belarusian lunch at the site of an old brewery with our friends from the U.S. Embassy.
Of course I had to try the Dranaki which are pancakes made from finely grated potatoes and onions, topped off with butter and salmon roe.
Here’s my attempt at making them back here in the states;
Not bad for a first attempt at Dranaki. The Belarusian vodka made up for any inadequacies;)
Here are some shots from our concert, masterclass and jam session at Grodno Jazz Fest 2015
These upcoming stars sang a jazz choir version of Cheek to Cheek for us after our workshop, they were great!
Well we made it safely to our next destination. We are so honored to have been invited by Scott Rauland, the U.S. Embassy Minsk, Belarus and the Grodno Jazz Festival to come over and share some American music. Wishing you all peace, acceptance and the ability to keep open hearts and minds towards each other.
Check out th JRB on the Belarusian popular ONT Morning Show!
Danny; Minsk Belarus
I would like to dedicate this post to all the millions of people who now have the freedom to marry all across the U.S., to all the millions of people who will now be able to keep their affordable health care, to all those who lost their lives in WW2 here in Belarus and to the mayrtrs in Charleston who lost their lives this week while embracing their faith.
Yesterday our wonderful translator and new friend Olga, took us on a three hour walking tour of Minsk. When we visit a country to bring American music abroad, the cultural sharing is not just a one way street, it’s an exchange also. It’s just as important that we learn about their culture are share that with our friends in the States. When I tell people that I’m going to Belarus, many aren’t sure where it is geographically.
Because of where Minsk is located, It was almost totally destroyed during WW2. It was caught geographically in between the warring factions of Eastern Europe. What wasn’t destroyed by war, was leveled by Stalin and rebuilt in the Soviet era style to show how resilient the Soviets were after the war. The architecture reminds me of Moscow with it’s federal style state buildings. There are almost no examples of pre war architecture in Minsk.
The area near the hotel is a mile or so from downtown and the Philharmonic hall where we played. There is a lot of construction and as the old Soviet style wooden workers houses are being torn down, the people are being relocated to the outskirts of the city.
Brian and I ventured out each night in search of some traditional Belarusian food and drink. We managed to find some great borscht, potato pancakes and of course beer;)
We took taxis to the restaurants but walked back. It is very safe here at night. We snapped off a couple of pictures of the metro here, although I found out afterwards that it’s against the law.
The borders have shifted here a few times and there remains a big Polish and Russian influence. Most everyone speaks Russian although there is a movement to
preserve the Belarusian language.
The first ever communist party meetings took place here in Minsk. Here is the house where it supposedly all started.
We did get to see some of the old city center where there are some nice parks and some old churches.
The people here are warm and welcoming. We are lucky to have had a chance to see a place that not many Americans get to experience.
After so much walking we decided to take the horse and carriage back to the hotel.
Danny; Minsk Belarus
Last night we were invited to play a set at
the Grafitti club in downtown Minsk. The place was packed and the audience was easily convinced to join us in breaking down the wall that usually divides performer and listener.
We got a chance to hang out with some of the fans after the show and talk about some of our musical influences.
The club had a big screen that was playing videos of some of the Giants in the Jazz world.